It’s the same old story. Women are the ones who get pregnant, and men feel entitled to make laws that deal with the privacy of our bodies and reproductive rights. The debate is raging across our country once again, highlighted by a wave of new state abortion laws that take us back to the dark ages with a vengeance. Women’s lives, mentally, physically and financially are the ones at risk if forced to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term. When it comes to pregnancy, women are the vulnerable ones. Not men.
Something is very wrong with this picture in 2019 almost fifty years after the landmark Supreme Court ruling Roe v. Wade legalized abortion. In 1973 that law took abortion out of the alleys and bathrooms of my mother and grandmother’s generations, and opened the doors to safety in medical settings and reproductive freedom for women. Safety and choice. Remember that because its threat to disappearance is greater than it has been in decades.
To clarify - if it’s against your religious or moral beliefs no one is telling you to have an abortion. But millions of other women in this country need to continue having the legal right to make their own decisions when it comes to pregnancy. No group of religious or political extremists has a right to force their thinking on me or any other woman. I’ll respect you if you respect me.
Before the Roe v. Wade, women with little choice and desperate to end a pregnancy would resort to the worst possible that a mind could imagine and a woman’s body could endure. Coat hangers. Knitting needles. Scissors. Swallowing almost any toxic substance thought to create a self-induced abortion. Women who were married tried these things. Women who were single. Women who were raped. Women who were victims of incest. Tragically, too often those actions killed them or damaged them for life. Personal anguish met restrictive personal laws.
The death tolls from illegal abortions were staggering. In 1965, illegal abortion accounted for 17% of all deaths attributed to pregnancy and childbirth. And these are just the numbers officially reported. The actual number was likely much higher with poor women and their families disproportionately impacted.
Today we are once again faced with the reality of what a war on women looks like, and it’s ugly.
The attempt to overturn Roe v. Wade has been emboldened by the master of moral authority, Donald Trump. The man who will use and manipulate any issue to meet his own needs.
“I’m very pro-choice,” Trump said in an interview with Tim Russert in 1999. “I hate the concept of abortion. I hate it. I hate everything it stands for. I cringe when I listen to people debating the subject. But you still — I just believe in choice.”
Fast forward to Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign where he found abortion a winning issue among Evangelical Christians. It created a newly reformed man who saw the light of victory and became an ardent supporter of the anti-abortion movement while committing to the appointment of Supreme Court Justices who would overturn Roe v. Wade. All to win an election.
Donald Trump. The same man who loved playing around with women while he was married in New York City with no thought of a moral compass. The same man who allegedly had unprotected sex with porn star Stormy Daniels and Playboy Playmate Karen McDougal while he was married to our now First Lady, and had just become a new father. The same man who was recorded by an Access Hollywood reporter matter-of-factly talking about women saying, “when you're a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything.” Do we have any idea how many abortions Trump has paid for? .
And it is Donald Trump who nominated conservative Bret Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. Remember him? Mr. pure and clean who played around in college but never let that interfere with his determination during confirmation hearings to throw a credible and respected woman, Professor Christine Blasey Ford, under the bus when she accused him of sexual assault. His subsequent appointment opened the right wing doors, emboldening staunch anti-abortion Republicans to line up state legislation for potential Supreme Court review. The goal: overturn Roe v. Wade.
Where is it written that laws should only govern the reproductive rights of women? Nowhere. Should a man’s penis and reproductive ability be allowed to exist without laws dealing with the impact it can have? Perhaps not.
There are approximately 500,000 vasectomies performed on men each year. It’s a procedure that makes it near impossible for a man to impregnate a woman, and is performed privately in a doctor’s office or in Planned Parenthood’s medical offices. It’s reproductive health afterall, and sometimes can be helpful to women who don’t want children or any more children. But men have a choice when they decide to have a vasectomy, and no one is threatening to take away.
There are no protestors lined up when a man walks into a medical office to have a vasectomy performed. No one screams at a man walking into a facility to have a vasectomy or shoves a picture of a fetus in his face or forces him to wait and think about it before the procedure is performed. A man’s reproductive rights have always been about the man’s decision, not a court of law telling him what to do.
If Roe v. Wade is overturned, it will not stop abortions from taking place. We know from all of the years before legalization what will happen. Women who can afford to go somewhere safe and have the procedure done, will do so. Women who can’t afford to go outside of their home area will be forced to take matters into their own hands. The estimated number of illegal abortions in the 1950’s and 1960’s ranged from 200,000 to 1.2. million a year.
I’ve been reporting on this story for a long, long time. As a young reporter in New York City, I covered the 1970 passage of the New York State law legalizing abortion three years before Roe v. Wade was enacted. Not long after, Sarah Weddington, the young attorney representing Jane Roe before the Supreme Court, and I shared a head table at a woman’s event. She spoke of her historic experience. I received an award for a television news series called “Rape”. We were living at a time of critical change for women and looked to the future to continue making life better and more equal for women. We cannot go backward.
What women are dealing with today is outrageous and insulting. It’s time to stand up once again ladies (and gentlemen inclined) and let your voices be heard.